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Marketing with Online Social Networks … Creating the "Thneed"

I think I figured it out. In learning about online social networks, blogs, the 1% rule and all of the rest, I think I have developed a pretty good way to generate A LOT of online traffic, and because I am a big fan of Who Moved My Cheese and Your Iceberg Is Melting, I will explain the process with a story. So here is my Once Upon a Time to help you explode your presence online:

Before we begin our story we must realize that for every online social network, 1% of the visitors will stop to create a profile and only 10% of those people will actively participate in the network. This is the 1% rule.

With this in mind, let's turn our attention to Realtor Barrett (no relation.) Realtor Barrett has been a real estate agent for a while and has had limited success with real estate flyers, door hangers and farming an area. He has spent his share of Saturdays sitting in empty open houses, and until recently was doing okay attracting clients.

Now Barrett's real estate business had slowed a bit this year and he had had a bit more time to learn about online marketing. At the advice of his broker he started a blog and approached Advance Access to create a web page. However, he was just not getting the traffic and clients that he needed. So he started learning about Web 2.0.

Barrett spent hours every day learning about online social networks and the MySpaces of the world. He started a flickr account, but did not have many pictures to share. He read voraciously about the web and the word of mouth and even accepted the mantra of the 1% rule.

Barrett read and read and read until one day it hit him. An EPIPHANY! An easy way to attract thousands of visitors to his website and blog. A simple system to be all over the internet, and everywhere his target customer may be. A simple approach that uses the 1% rule and all of the other lessons of viral marketing to explode his business.

With this great new insight Realtor Barrett set to work. The first thing he did was look for a cool tool on the internet that every client would like, (I'm a big Dr. Seuss fan so we will call it a Thneed) This Thneed would be a reliably unique tool that Barrett's target customers would find useful, intriguing, and worthy of discussion (perhaps a branded Zillow API, something to do with Google Maps, perhaps a widget developed from Trulia or some other innovative tool.) Barrett posted some time on the mashable.com blog and found some unique API's which he used to create a unique, and quite discussion worthy Thneed. It may be important to note that Realtor Barrett is not a programmer, but a REALTORĀ® and as such had to outsource the programming of his Thneed.

Barrett posted his Thneed on a single webpage under a graphic with the WordPress and Blogger logo that said "Spread the word. If you like this tool Blog about it." Next to his Thneed Barrett laid links to his blog and his home page. Barrett added forms that allow visitors to ask for more information, and he even added a feature to the page that would allow visitors to comment. Under his Thneed Realtor Barrett placed the social networking widgets so that visitors could Digg, Reddit, Del.ic.ious and otherwise bookmark and share this wonderful new Thneed with the world. Barrett hoped that his Thneed would compel people to share and that his request to blog about the Thneed would be heeded.

Now that Barrett had his Thneed (which by the way cost him about $ 800 but was hopefully worth it) he wrote two specific articles about his new tool for his customers. The first article that he wrote was actually a press release that described the excellent new features of his great new tool. He submitted his press release to Expertclick.com, PRWEB.com, and Erelease.com. He also sent a copy to the editor of the local community magazine. The second article that Barrett wrote was posted directly into his blog where he included the widgets to allow his readers to syndicate, bookmark, digg and share his article with their peers.

Barrett had been new Thneed and had announced it to the world, but Realtor Barrett knew that this would only give him a small amount of traffic and only for a short time. He also knew that online social networks that served the specific needs and interests of his neighbors and target clients were being launched every day. Finally, Barrett knew that even though these sites may have many visitors, only around 1% will take the time to contribute.

With that knowledge, Realtor Barrett set out to create a viral wave around his Thneed. His approach was simple, but proved to be immensely effective. First he stopped at MySpace and created a profile. Barrett knew that 45% of MySpace users are over the age of 35 and many of his neighbors were members.

Next Barrett went to Google and searched for online social networks (he also went to Lycos, but he started with Google) that may serve his target clients. Knowing that for every 100 visitors to these sites only one creates a profile, Barrett understands that he could increase his visibility online, just by taking the time to become a member. Barrett spent the next three days finding online social networks that may interest his clients and becoming a member. (This was a dauting task because a new network is created every couple of hours and that pace is accelerating.)

Now Realtor Barrett understands that membership just implied that some people may stumble across his profile on these different networks. Therefore, when he created his profiles he took action to ensure that he would receive the maximum amount of traffic. For each profile that Barrett created, he uploaded his picture, wrote (not copied from the previous profile, but actually drafted anew) a real and genuine description of who he was and what he is about, and included all of his contact information used a junk email account to avoid spam.) In his profile he also included direct links to his Thneed with a very compelling description about its benefits, as well as an invitation to blog about it if they like it. Finally, in each network Barrett posted a copy of his press release and a few quick blog comments about the tool.

Barrett visited network after network taking this approach and his backlinks to the Thneed griev. However, Barrett new that he had not yet started to move the viral iceberg. He was a member of all of these networks and maintained his own blog, but it was time for Barrett to move his promotions into high gear.

With this in mind, Barrett logged one of his online social networks. He sent about an hour reading and going over different blog posts until he finally started writing his own blog which was a commentary on one of the blogs from one of the network's opinion leaders. Barrett knew the individual was an opinion leader because he had the most posts and the most views of anyone else in the site. Barrett created his blog post and submitted it to Pingoat for syndication. He also thought it was good enough to submit to Digg and Reddit and made sure that in the text he included all of the bookmarking widgets.

Now keep in mind that for every social network, only ten percent of the members generally contribute and that the contributing group generally has only a handful of opinion leaders that create the most dialog. Also keep in mind that this group of content creators is less than 0.01% of those that end up reading the commentary. Barrett understood this and understood that he only needed to make friends with a competent people in every network. He simply needed to connect with the opinion leaders in each network and share his Thneed with them. Barrett knew that if he could befriend these few people who generate a lot of content and help them to share their views about the value of his Thneed with the rest of the online social network, the Thneed would become something that everyone needs.

So with every network, Barrett posted his blogs. He took part in discussions and commented on the opinions of the opinion leaders and participants in the network. He invited comment about his Thneed and how it could have improved. He even asked his peers in each network to write a formal review that he could link to from his Thneed.

It took time …. most big projects do. However, in just a few months, Barrett saw his web traffic explode. Online communities kept sending new members his way. In addition, those millions of people that visit the networks but never participate (only 1% ever bothed signing up) end up learning about the Thneed. They visit in droves and Barrett's online presence soars.

Strangely enough, this exercise pays off. Realtor Barrett can be found everywhere on the net, and clients for Barrett start coming out of the woodwork ….. and Barrett Sold Real Estate Until He Retired …. Happily ever after.

Some closing thoughts on this very length post: Whenever you create a post in your blog, syndicate it across the web with Pingoat. If your entry is interesting, be sure to Digg it and Reddit. Finally, when participating in all of these networks, and there are a lot of them, be genuine, be consistent and be a productive and contributing member. In every community, you are a member of a family that shares common interests. Respect this relationship and care for your online friends.

Ata Rehman

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